People say to me “it is in the past – it doesn’t matter anymore.” People might say to me “You just have to deal with and move on.” People might say “I’m not blaming my childhood for my problems. It wasn’t that bad.” Or “It is a choice if you want to be happy.”
You know – a lot of that is true. We are more than what has happened to us. There does come a time where we have to choose to accept and work through stuff or stay stuck. We can usually choose the light we put our life in. There is so much more to the picture though.
Things we learn when we are young, things we learn repeatedly or things learned through a traumatic experience stay with us. It is an effort to change these thoughts. It may be an effort you make throughout your life – even for thoughts you know aren’t true. I always tell people that once our brain holds a belief or learns something it sticks with it. Our brains like to be right so it will look for reasons to prove it is right while discounting anything that would poke holes in the story. For example your brain might constantly give you the message “you aren’t very smart.” Every time you don’t figure out something or every time you feel stupid or every time someone knows something you don’t – your brain will say “see, you aren’t very smart.” It is up to you to keep reminding your brain to shut up. Remind your brain that you know a lot of stuff and that you are smart. It becomes easier but it takes time to assist your brain in writing another story. (Such as you are smart or you have great common sense.) Sometimes people are frustrated because they know an internal story isn’t true but it still pops up.
I was reminded of this again this weekend. It was a thought I was told over and over again when I was a child. Growing up, my mom had a pretty severe mental illness. She believed that everyone knew everything about her and by extension me and other family members. She believed that everyone was sending her messages and trying to show her how to behave. Some of her beliefs she repeated to me over and over and over again which my brain soaked all in.
I was visiting my BFF and we were shopping this past weekend. (In my life I never have as much fun shopping as I do with her. Thank goodness for fun friends.) Overhead in the department store there were some bells ringing periodically. It is like two or three tones playing (sort of like a xylophone but not really.) I hadn’t heard those in years. Before my mother was more stable she used to tell me that the tones were about us. She would tell me that the tones were telling people to watch us and make sure we were behaving appropriately. This would shoot her stress level up. She believed this whole heartedly and sincerely. I have always known this is not true. I know the tones have nothing to do with me at all. (Although, right now, in my head I thought “probably” – LOL Julie’s brain LOL.)
However, every time I hear the tones I think of the meaning my mom put to them. It is an automatic response “I guess people are watching.” I laugh at my brain and say whatever. There are no emotions tied to this anymore. It doesn’t invoke an uncomfortable feeling but the thought persists. I also mentioned it to my BFF who hadn’t even noticed the tones. I encourage people to talk about the unbeneficial thoughts with safe individuals. It is only a brief moment but it is still there. Even though my mom hasn’t said something like that to me in more than twenty years that thought pops up. I still have to correct my brain.
Give yourself time to change those unhelpful thoughts and the thoughts that fill your brain. You may always have to work at it but it is worth it. Give yourself a break. It is OK if you are still working on something that was a moment in the past. Those stories and moments in your past do matter. It is not a case of using your past as an excuse. It is a case of relearning. You are capable of changing your thoughts.